North Country home-based business rises to retail bakery status

NH SBDC is celebrating its 30th anniversary by highlighting just some of the many small business  clients we’ve had over the years. 

While the state was battling epic snowstorms, Magdalena Randall was busy setting up a retail bakery site in downtown Lancaster. Her Polish Princess Bakery had outgrown her family home after three years of providing artisan breads and other baked goods to the region.  Magdalena got her start 6 years ago when she brought her first 18 loaves to the Lancaster Farmer’s Market and they quickly sold out. She added the Berlin Farmer’s Market after that success.

She soon expanded her skills and her offerings to include breads with Italian, French, German and Polish origins. She bakes several kinds of rolls and more than 10 types of bread including wheat, various ryes and baguettes.

Here in early March, she awaits the installation of a European bread oven in the new retail space, so she’s without her main product. However, she’s been selling her breakfast pastries, cookies, quiche and soups, and a little bit of bread.

Magdalena, who is originally from Poland, first heard about the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center’s North Country business advisor Stewart Gates back in 2006 or 2007, after reading an article about his services.  “I wasn’t ready to open the business yet, but I thought it was amazing that a resource like this was available,” she said.

Magdalena ramped up planning by first taking an entrepreneurial course through the now-defunct Micro-Credit organization, and the instructor of that course recommended Stewart to her just at the moment she had begun thinking of expanding her baking to outside her home.

“I met with him once a week over the summer…working out the numbers and trying to figure out the economics,” she said. She and Stewart worked through a checklist of all the things she needed to consider.

When the downtown Lancaster property became available, she knew it was time to move on it.  While she says it was “convenient” to be doing all her baking in her home, “it was also time to grow and to stop living between the bags of flour in the kitchen!”

She ultimately got both a bank loan and a loan from the town of Lancaster.  Once The Polish Princess is fully operational, with her ovens installed and what she hopes will be a steady stream of customers, she’ll meet with Stewart again and go over the financial data together. She knows she’ll need ongoing advice in this phase on her development.

“Just because someone like me has an idea about a business doesn’t mean we know the business side of things!” she said. 

Break those bad habits

Owning your own business isn’t easy. It takes time, effort, and a great deal of personal investment. But sometimes you can make it even harder on yourself than it needs to be. Here are a few habits to break if you and your business are to stay healthy:

Trying to do too much.

Life is full of opportunities, but trying to take advantage of all of them merely divides your effort and blunts the results. Pick the one or two things you can do best and focus on them.

Working too hard.

The old saying goes, “Work smarter, not harder.” Take advantage of new technologies to simplify tasks. Delegate responsibilities to those around you, and be sure to give them the credit for a job well done.

Ignoring the competition.

It’s easy to pretend you’re the only business going after a certain market, but it’s rarely true. Don’t obsess about the competition, but be aware of them, even if you’re at the top of the heap. Every successful startup began at the bottom.

Entrepreneur and venture investor Adam Callinan offers tips for 10 things entrepreneurs need to stop doing, many of which apply to small business owners, in this article:

Take some tips from billionaires

Highly successful people come from all different backgrounds, but they share some common habits, according to author Paul C. Brunson. Brunson has spent time working with celebrity Oprah Winfrey and billionaire Enver Yucel and noticed that the two shared some common working habits, habits that those of us with less than a billion dollars can also practice.

1. Keep growing.

Take the time to invest in your own self development. Don’t ever stop learning new skills and exploring new areas.

2. Stay curious.

Successful people notice things that other people may think are obvious or totally obtuse. Sometimes those things lead to new ideas, new developments, or new ways of doing things.

3. Take responsibility.

If something goes wrong, don’t try to cover it up. Own it, and make it right.

4. Take risks.

It has been said that people who take risks live longer, happier lives. “If you’re not taking risks, you’re not making moves,” says Brunson.

5. Build a team.

Highly successful people don’t try to do everything themselves. Surround yourself with good people and work with them to build your dream.

Read Brunson’s complete article with many more tips from highly successful people here:

What’s your story? Telling one is good for business

Telling stories.  Turns out telling stories is not just for children.  It’s good for those hunting for a job and it’s good for those starting a new company. According to this New York Times article, telling stories–rather than facts–is what will get you the job or resonate with people who you ask for money.  Telling a story is a way to show that you are “compelling, unforgettable, funny and smart. Magnetic, even.”  Telling a story is a way to show the world what makes you so special. 

So, you need to have a good story ready at hand when you go to pitch yourself to investors or try to get a bank loan.  And you need to be able to tell it well.  It’s a skill that can be learned, according to the authors of this article.  Consultants are now offering classes in story-telling and researchers have honed in on the hallmarks of the best stories that resonate with people.  A compelling story should have something close to this formula–which if you studied literature or writing might look familiar to you: Act 1, scene setting; Act 2, rising action; Act 3, the turning point; Act 4, the falling action; and Act 5, the denouement or release.   There can be fewer stages or more stages, but in general the best stories all follow this pattern and, where business is concerned, seem to result in sales. To tell a good story, we need to just tell it, not analyze it, explain it or judge it first, according to one expert.  It’s when we over-think things that they fall flat on the listener.  So, how to think about your own business story? “It’s about balancing your personal story — incorporating your values, tying it together with a vision of the future, and telling how investors can get involved and also benefit themselves.”

Finally, here is a short list of tips:

  • Know who your audience is
  • Have a beginning, middle and end. (That sounds obvious, but people often forget that.)
  • Use concrete details and personal experience
  • Don’t self-censor.
  • Don’t try to memorize a story so it sounds rehearsed. It’s not about perfection. It’s about connecting. 

CLIENT PROFILE: Intrinsyk medical devices poised for growth spurt

NH SBDC is celebrating its 30th anniversary by highlighting just some of the many small business  clients we’ve had over the years. 

When three men decided to take their combined medical device expertise and strike out on their own, they discovered a bit of a learning curve was involved.  Starting from scratch was a bit different than working for somebody else, it turns out.  

Paul Fueller, Tom Gannon and Jim Booker together turned to Hollis McGuire of the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center in their desire to start a medical device design and manufacturing firm. She, in turn, connected them to many more resources across the state that would eventually enable their start-up that officially launched in July of 2013 in Salem, New Hampshire.

Today Intrinsyk is busy preparing to bring one of its products to its first sizable market and it is generating its first sales, facts that will move them to another stage of growth and development.

Instrinsyk’s products are designed for the diabetic, blood sampling and clinical-care markets. In short, their first devices are designed to make needle sticks safer and more efficient. They have a long-range plan to branch out from that niche.

“When we got involved with Hollis, in our planning stage, we got the cream of the crop,” Tom said. “She reviewed our business plan, our marketing plan, all of our data. She identified our weaknesses and really, really helped us beef up the plan to be ready to present it to investors.”

Then, Paul says, Hollis “started name-dropping”. By that he means she started listing all the organizations in the state that could be helpful to Intrinsyk and its mission.  One of the first was a group called Next Level Now, a Portsmouth-based firm that provides financial management and strategic advice. Through that organization, Intrinsyk had the services of a Chief Financial Officer, which proved invaluable, enabling the partners to put together a package to present to investors.

Intrinsyk recently took part in an international medical trade show in Dubai, where they demonstrated their device that helps take blood samples from newborns up to age one-and-a-half. The blade-type device is more comfortable and efficient than a needle-stick would be at that age, plus it produces enough blood for accurate samples and involves quick-healing time for the child. Visitors in Dubai “wanted it yesterday,” Paul reports. Two active clients came from that trade show and shipping begins in April or May of this year.

Soon the company will be needing professional office staff and distribution employees, and that’s been their goal all along, to bring some jobs to the Salem area.

“We hear from Hollis often and I send her quick updates now and then,” Tom explains.  The sales they’ve now generated will require that they obtain some bridge funding, to fill the gap between manufacturing costs and actual revenue received.  “We have no problem taking guidance from others like Hollis at this stage,” Tom says. “We owe a lot to the SBDC and the connections they’ve helped us to establish.  It’s been extremely helpful and we’re very grateful. I just can’t say enough about them.”